Osteopathy and the Fire Brigade
HAZARDS OF THE JOB
Every job has its occupational hazards and for those working in The Fire Brigade, there are few exceptions. Whether its the physical demands of frontline fire and rescue, or sitting for long hours at a desk in an administrative role, these can all take its toll on our physical health, which in turn can affect our overall well-being.
From a sudden injury caused by lifting equipment or rescuing people, to the cumulative strains of repetitive work, symptoms such as pain and stiffness can easily occur.
OSTEOPATHY – HOW IT CAN HELP
Osteopathy is one type of complementary medicine where the practitioner diagnoses and treats problems within the musculo-skeletal system. Although people often think ‘osteopathy’ concerns just bones or just the spine, osteopaths treat a range of conditions that involve the whole body and other tissue types; ligaments, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and joints. So, even though many patients have problems in their back or neck, osteopaths can apply treatment for a wide range of conditions in all areas of the body. The effects of many health conditions on the body (e.g. digestive problems) can also be improved, though the underlying condition in itself may not be able to be resolved.
HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM MASSAGE AND WHAT HAPPENS IN A CONSULTATION?
Whereas pure massage mainly focuses on the soft tissues (i.e. muscles, tendons and ligaments), osteopathy can also influence the skeletal system by addressing restrictions in the joints of your body. Osteopaths can detect whether the function of a joint is impaired and perform adjustments to the joint – ‘clicking’ (freeing up) the joint if safe to do so and with the patient’s consent.
A record of your presenting complaint and background information regarding your general health will be taken. If you have any medical correspondence, X-ray / MRI reports or list of medication taken (names and dosages) or other relevant data then this will be useful to the osteopath if you bring this along. If your presentation is suitable for osteopathy, you will be asked to undress to your underwear so that a standing visual examination can take place. This is so the osteopath can get an idea of your overall structure.
The osteopath will then feel the various tissues in both the area concerned and elsewhere as this will give more information. You will be asked to perform certain ‘active’ movements e.g. bending forward or lifting an arm. These will often then be repeated by the osteopath with you relaxed / ‘passive’. Other specialised tests that may be performed include neurological examinations (e.g. reflexes) and you may require examination of the systems of your body, such as having your blood pressure taken.
For those who have never experienced a manipulation of a spinal joint, curiosity and occasionally, apprehension may both occur. Relax – osteopaths usually have at least 4 years of training and have performed hundreds if not thousands of manipulations before. Safety should be their priority and an assessment will always be carried out – i.e risk versus benefit. If you’re still not convinced by being ‘clicked’, there are many alternative techniques osteopaths are trained in to help you get better. A few examples include soft tissue manipulation (“massage”), muscle energy techniques (an advanced type of muscle conditioning to strengthen or lengthen muscles) and cranial osteopathy (a very gentle, subtle form of osteopathy) as well as advanced techniques like acupuncture and ultrasound. Your osteopath will advise you what is best and treat accordingly, or refer on if other skills are required.
WHAT BENEFITS CAN BE ACHIEVED?
Benefits can include reduced pain or discomfort, increased range and ease of movement, as well as improved sleep, general body function and well- being.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
Side-effects can include some soreness or pain after treatment, which usually settles within 48 hours. (This may be the normal course of events for your presentation, even if you did not receive osteopathy!) This can be relieved by applying an ice-pack or heat – whatever works best for you for between 5 and 10 minutes. Although you may feel tenderness during treatment, this is often “good pain” and should produce a reduction in symptoms when things settle. Specific (but extremely rare) risks for certain manipulations (e.g. neck) should be explained to you by your osteopath.
HOW MANY SESSIONS WILL I NEED?
This very much depends on your presenting complaint. Your condition may be significantly improved in one session and you may not need further visits. Or, you may need several treatments, especially in the case of long term / chronic conditions. Your response to treatment will always be noted and your treatment plan reviewed, if necessary.
AND WILL I HAVE TO DO EXERCISES?
Your osteopath may provide you with exercises and other advice if appropriate. Those who do their exercises often get the best benefit.
WILL I NEED A GP OR THE FIRE BRIGADE HR TO REFER ME?
No, it is easy as you can self-refer.
IS IT FREE?
Few NHS practices sadly don’t offer osteopathy on the NHS, but some do and this may be worth checking. Otherwise, it is a private consultation and a fee will apply. Some osteopaths may offer discounts to key public workers.
I DON’T WANT WORK TO KNOW I’M IN PAIN – WILL THIS INFORMATION BE FED BACK TO THE FIRE BRIGADE?
No – your confidentiality is assured and remains between just you and the osteopath, unless you state otherwise. Exceptions may be where the your employer has specifically sent you for an assessment themselves and request a report.
GREAT, WHERE CAN I FIND AN OSTEOPATH?
Since it is a legal requirement that every practising osteopath is registered with The General Osteopathic Council, you can search for an osteopath by location or name using their website.